Maria Sharapova (pic:www.mariasharapova.com)
After her defeat in the women’s final at Wimbledon last July I wrote the following about Maria Sharapova:
There was a tentativeness to her game that could not be fully explained. Come to think of it, tentativeness has been a recurring feature of her career, notwithstanding that she won the Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004 and snapped up two more Grand Slam titles of the US Open (2006) and the Australian Open (2008).
Although she has been ranked the world’s number 1 tennis player four times (currently she is number 6), Sharapova gives you the impression of not being fully in the game at any given time. Even yesterday, she seemed to mentally wander away while (Petra) Kvitova was firmly planted in the center court determined to triumph. In a sense, Sharapova is the female Boris Becker with distractingly good looks. There is the promise of greater greatness which remains unfulfilled for some reason.”
Yesterday at Roland Garros or the French open in Paris she blew away that tentativeness to win her fourth Grand Slam title and became only the tenth woman player to have won all four. There was nervy urgency to her game as she defeated No.21 seed Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 19 minutes. I watched the final alone and kept saying ridiculous things like, “Come on miss, wrap it up.” It was as if she was within my earshot and paying close attention to my pleas and urgings. At one point I even said in Hindi, “Arey jaldi karo madam (Hey, hurry up madam).”
At no point during the match did it seem that Errani might pull off an upset. That was as much due to her own unexpected rise to the final as Sharapova’s obvious determination to win it. Errani came across as someone who knew that she did not realistically expect to win and had to do something truly out of the ordinary to beat her opponent. Except for a dropshot here or a pass there, the Italian gave no impression of performing beyond her absolute best.
Considering that Sharapova underwent shoulder surgery in 2008, went out of commission for ten months and dropped from the world's top 100 it is extraordinary that she has come back with such vigor. She even skids well. No one should be surprised if she grabs the Wimbledon title from Kvitova next month. Even if she does not, the French open win, whose low scores by her opponent belie its high performance, should reassure her that she is easily among the sport’s all time greats.
Something tells me that Sharapova now might play with a feeling of having been liberated from self-doubt that seemed to trouble her in 2011. Physically, she seems to be in her best shape, albeit a bit beefed up, I thought. Particularly her arms appeared a tad bulkier than last year. Notwithstanding that, they are still the very definition of the best looking female arms.